Yesterday morning I began organizing and sorting through my 1300+ images of Vietnam and Cambodia. While looking at the pictures several thoughts and reactions came to me as I remembered all our experiences during our ten day trip. First of all, the visit to Southeast Asia took me completely out of my comfort zone. The language, the food, the culture, the sounds, the smells were all so different from my life in Milwaukee.
As a member of the Vietnam generation, while we were making our descent into Saigon I could only think of my high school classmates who were drafted after graduation and their anxiety as they flew into Vietnam. They must have been terrified having left (for most of them their first time out of Missouri) the comfort of our hometown and arriving into a war zone. Like Joe, this trip was also a way I could see Vietnam and not always think of the nightly images that appeared on the 5 o’clock news.
I must say my fondest memory was the Cambodian children. Whether we met them in the schools, the orphanages, the streets it did not matter. They always would greet us with a quick smile and a beautiful friendly face. I began talking to a woman from St Louis as we were waiting for our boarding call in Thailand. Once she heard about our trip she immediately responded by saying that her first goal would be to bring the Cambodian orphans to the United States. I immediately responded that if she saw the love and care those children receive she would not think an American adoption would be the best for these children. The Cambodian children are cherished and it is obvious that the adults see the children as the hope for a better future for Cambodia. They may not have the material belongings that a life in the United States would give them but they are loved, nurtured and most importantly happy in their homeland.